Piaget Theory Of Cognitive Developement There are two classical theories of cognitive development. The one that I will focus on is Piagets theory of cognitive development. Jean Piaget, a Swiss, educated, mollusk biologist lived from 1896 to 1980. He hypothesized that learning is a physical, biological function of dealing with successfully with the environment. (Phillips, 1998) This is the basis for his theory. Looking at Piagets theory of cognitive development in more detail we find that he based it on two biological tendencies.
The two tendencies are organization, and adaption. Organization as Piaget saw it said that humans are designed to organize their observations and experiences into coherent sets of meanings. ( Eggen, 1999) This organization of observation makes the thinking process more efficient. If a person can put the things they observe in some sort of order the easier it is to remember and apply their observations. If we did not organize our observations and experiences we would have little bits of information floating around in our brains with no connection between them. Adaption is according to Piagets theory is the tendency to adjust to the environment.
Adaption is a process by which we create matches between our original observations and new ones that might not exactly fit together. Our original observations and conceptions are called our schemas. To adapt to new observations and experiences into our schemas we use one of two techniques. We can assimilate that information by putting it together with old schemas or conceptions. If the observations dont fit nicely into our existing schemas we use the second of the adaption techniques.
We accommodate or change our schema to fit our observation. Piaget never said that our schemas had to be right or wrong. Our schemas are based on our own observations and experiences. ( Eggen, 1999) We adapt to things because we are driven by the urge to have things fit together or to be in what Piaget calls equilibrium. As we use our adaption and organization we constantly get things to fit together. There is other biological functions that also help in cognitive development.
Normal growth of a person helps a person to adapt and perceive things better. Social interaction is also a biotic factor in cognitive development. Humans use other humans to check their own schemas with others. We learn to use others thought relationships to help them fit their schemas together better. Piaget used the two biological tendencies and other biological functions of humans to come up with four stages of cognitive development .( Eggen, 1999) Piaget said that each developing human must go through each stage in order.
The first stage is the sensory-motor stage. The approximate age of the humans in this stage is birth to 2 years. Piaget says that children learn through manipulating concrete materials. Half-way through this stage the child has the ability to know that when an object leaves their view they dont cease to exist they still are part of the physical world. This is the concept of object permanence. It also allows the child to hold a concept in their mind. The Second stage of Piagets cognitive development is the pre-operational stage.
This stage occurs from 2 – 7 years of age and in it children master many symbols and concrete concepts. In this stage the child is also very egocentric. They have a hard time looking at more than one characteristic of the object their experiencing. In the third stage called the concrete-operational stage, children age 7- 11 start to think logically, learn about the law of conservation, and serial ordering. Conservation is the concept that matter is always the same despite the change in shape of an object.
Serial ordering is being able to recognize that things can be put in order. The forth and final stage is the formal-operational stage. From age 12 to adult, learners are able to think abstractly about real objects. They also use reasoning and logic to think abstractly about those objects. In this highest of the stage of development learners start to use complex language forms such as metaphors and the like.
There are some weak points of Piagets theory. The first is that Piaget underestimated childrens capabilities. Most children mover through the first two stages much faster than Piaget said they would. On the other hand the last two stages Piaget overestimated the abilities of humans to master the stage. We must realize that because of the other biological factors each child will go through each stage in their own time, so at a given age not all children are at the same cognitive stage.( Eggen, 1999) To apply Piagets theory in the classroom, we should remember the students developmental level and gear our teaching toward that.
To have 2nd graders thing abstractly is an impossibility. They would never completely understand the concept because they are not ready developmentally. Since Piagets theory revolves around the biological adaption to environment we need to teach so that students can see relationships between concepts. One way to do that in elementary schools is to teach with thematic units. This lets the students relate all subject together through the main theme. Bibliography Eggen, P.
Educational Psychology, New Jersey: Merrill-Prentice Hall, 1999 Phillips, D.C. Perspectives on Learning, New York: Teachers College Press, 1998.